A fast-paced and engaging thriller set in Russia involving a British historian and the legacy of Joseph Stalin. Based on a fictional novel by Robert Harris, Archangel is based on SOME actual events…there were things that came out in recent years about members of Stalin’s lineage but this story takes more than a little creative license. Moody and dark, the atmosphere of this film helps the suspense along. And Daniel Craig is convincing as the historian on the hunt for the truth. This is a solid thriller that also will appeal to history buffs for the amount of past events in the former Soviet Union have to do with the suspense.

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Writing this on June 3, 2005, the whole world now knows the identity of the mysterious “Deep Throat.” Having that newly revealed information does not diminish the impact of this film. Neither does knowing the outcome of the story. People flocked to see Titanic even though that outcome was also infamously known. The ending…or resolve…of All the President’s Men really is not the reason to watch it. Watch it for everything that leads up to the finale of Nixon as president—the detailed investigative reporting, the danger, the deadlines, the fear of incomplete information…or inaccurate information…the threat of losing jobs and even lives while covering this story. All of those pieces make this film about a very well-known time in American history a taut, fast-paced thriller. Yes…thriller. A movie about Nixon and Watergate and reporters and reporting is a thriller…all with an ending that is not a surprise to viewers? Hard to believe, I know, but nonetheless true. From start to finish, this film is packed with tense, exciting moments…all while making investigative journalism look like the coolest profession outside of taste tester for Ben and Jerry’s. The famous book that this film is based on, by then-Washington Post up-and-coming journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (who is now an editor at the Post), is dryer and more dense. The movie takes all of the many facts and details of the book and lays them out in a complex, tight structure that makes us sit on the edge of our seats.

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A fabulously acted movie that holds your attention all the way through. Based on a true crime from the 1920s, director Clint Eastwood takes what could have been a simple movie and makes it into a psychological, intense drama. After a mother’s son goes missing, corruption in the Los Angeles Police Department takes over and forces the mother to accept a child that is not her own. When the mother protests, she is called crazy and put in an asylum. Apparently, this real-life case began the fall of the corruption among L.A.’s finest. Regardless of the truth of this story, it is an enthralling film. Angelina Jolie is superb as the wronged mother. And Eastwood’s knack for storytelling has never been better. The story lags a little near the end but all in all, a great film.
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Incendiary examines how a London terrorist attack forever destroys the life of a working-class mom. Michelle Williams, who was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, plays a London mother and wife…the opening scenes capture her closeness with her 4-year-old son and the distance with her husband. She meets Jasper Black, played by Ewan McGregor and sees her chance to escape some of the dullness of her marriage. When her son and husband head to a local soccer match, she sees her chance to get together with Black. While she’s with him, a terrorist bomb explodes at the soccer stadium and her son and husband are among the dead. She runs through the gambit of emotions…sadness, of course…relief, that her mundane marriage is over?…guilt, that she was betraying her husband at the very moment of his death?…hatred, for the terrorists responsible for the loss of her beloved son? She tries to find some understanding by befriending the suspected bomber’s son, but this just leaves her more disillusioned. Yes, Incendiary sounds like a bleak movie with little hope, and though at times it is, some optimism does manage to sneak in. Williams does a superb job of conveying all sorts of emotions. Her performance raises this movie from just another post-911 tale to a deeper, more powerful film on loss and redemption.

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An excellent thriller based on a Harlan Coben novel of the same title. A husband and wife are vacationing at their wooded cabin when the wife is mysteriously taken and murdered. The film begins years after the wife’s murder, showing the husband as a man who has not been able to let go. This obsession with his wife’s murder is increased considerably after he receives some video suggesting his wife might be alive. This is a strong film, but the ending really cinches this one as a excellent thriller. Most thrillers really do not know what to do with the ending. The ending of Coben’s book was good. But, the filmmakers decided to try something different. And the ending surpasses the one Coben wrote for the book. So, they succeeded in accomplishing two coups…changing the ending of a novel for the better and writing a strong, definitive ending for a thriller.

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Since I wrote a post on the 2003 version, here’s my post for the 2009:
As I wrote in my post for the 2003 BBC TV production of this tale, it is a well-done, intense political thriller…that is a must see. This one is about 4 hours shorter than the British TV production, but it is just as taut and gripping as the first…maybe even better since it does that same job in a feature film length. Keeping most of the story in tact, this version has a congressman caught in a sex scandal with a murdered young researcher from his office. The congressman’s former roommate is a reporter who is on the story and trying his best to keep both his loyalties to his congressman friend and his newspaper job. Like All the President’s Men, this film really takes you inside the inner workings of a Washington D.C.’s newspaper office…keeping the nightmare pace and the cutthroat-ness in tact. I’m sure the newspaper biz is hectic and frantic in most of the country, but add in the turmoil of political and you get a hellish frenzy. Excellent performances by all make this movie a fabulous political and journalistic thriller. Watch both versions and compare for yourself!

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I saw this film for the first time after I watched the 1987 Kevin Costner film No Way Out, which is based on this 1948 Ray Milland movie. Both are good cat-and-mouse thrillers, different enough to be unique movies, but similar in all of the major plot points. The main difference between the two films is that The Big Clock is much less complicated and more focused on the main storyline, making it a tight, fast-paced thriller. Milland plays a magazine editor who somehow finds himself investigating a murder in which he played a major part. He also knows who the real murderer is but cannot reveal this salient piece of information without revealing his part in the crime. If you’re confused by all of that, then don’t see No Way Out which makes this premise even more muddled and twisted by adding a political twist to the story. The Big Clock might always be known as the movie No Way Out is based on, but it stands alone as a solid, thoroughly entertaining mystery.

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Evil Robert Mitchum comes to a small, sleepy town posing as a preacher to try and win over the hearts and bank accounts of unsuspecting ladies, preferably the desperate ones. Enter Shelley Winters with no husband and two kids, making the perfect target. The best thing about this movie is Robert Mitchum. Normally a good actor who is able to play any kind of role (cowboy, cop, soldier, good guy, bad guy, etc.), this movie took the “bad guy” role to new heights. Here his devilish acts focus around children. Even with a subject matter that can be very touchy, Mitchum gives this role his all. The end result is one of the creepiest, meanest and most ruthless characters in American cinema.

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Hitchcockian, according to Wikipedia, is “a general term used to describe film styles and themes similar to those of Alfred Hitchcock’s films.” Being a Hitchcock fan, this term is like nails on a chalkboard for me…when misused. And, trust me, 99% of the time, it is misused. Brian De Palma is often called “Hitchcockian.” Um, excuse me…no, he’s just a copy-cat. Basically, the term has been tossed around by film critics since the Hitchcock era to signify any decent thriller. Hitchcockian has become WAY too over-used. It should not be used for ANY thriller…good or not. Hitchcock had a certain style, a certain elegance to his films that very few (if any) filmmakers have been able to duplicate over the years. Les Diaboliques is Hitchcockian. First of all, it was made in 1955, when Hitchcock was still alive and well and avidly working (the 1950s was probably his best and most accomplished decade). The story of Les Diaboliques is about two women (the wife and the mistress) who kill a man, only the have the dead body turn up missing. There are certain key differences between this film and Hitchcock’s work, of course, such as Les Diaboliques is devoid of the usual Hitchcock humor. But, on the whole, this is a great thriller…so Hitchcockian that the Master himself felt a little jealous of French director Henri-Georges Clouzot…maybe not jealous per se, but let’s just say Les Diaboliques was such a good thriller that Hitchcock felt some pressure. Do I think Hitch broke a sweat? Well, considering that he was and always will be the one and only Master of Suspense, I think he had very little to worry about.

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Hitchcock delves into the genre of legal dramas with this one…with Gregory Peck as a British barrister who defends a woman he is convinced is innocence…mostly because he’s in love with her. Peck is miscast here, not even trying to fake an English accent. We know he can pull off a good “lawyer” act (as he does flawlessly in To Kill a Mockingbird), but he just doesn’t even seem to be trying here. Laughton and Barrymore are hardly used at all…I’m sure they were just cast for big name appeal…their roles are both minute, especially Barrymore’s. The one saving grace to this film is the plot. It’s a strong story that holds up through the years. Not packing as much of a “thriller” punch as most Hitchcock titles, this one is more about the drama and less about the suspense, though there is a crucial piece of plot that is revealed in the end. Compared to titles like Billy Wilder’s legal classic Witness for the Prosecution, the ending is not as intense, but the movie on a whole is a fine legal drama.

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